The American Society of Civil Engineers applauds the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan released last week by the Environmental Protection Agency to help communities across the country remove lead pipes out of their drinking water systems.
Access to clean and safe drinking water is critical to public health and economic prosperity, and ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave a grade of C- for the drinking water category. It is estimated that as many as 10 million American households still have lead water pipes in use, which can put at risk the health and safety of families, particularly children. For utilities, moving forward with completing an inventory of lead service lines as part of the Lead and Copper Rule is a critical step, so we can get a better national picture of the scope of the problem.
This plan will allocate nearly $3 billion from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to states for lead service line replacements in FY 2022 and will prioritize communities with the highest lead levels. While additional investment will be needed, it is a significant down-payment on a national shared priority of clean drinking water for all Americans. It will allow utilities of all sizes to accelerate their rate of lead pipe replacement and offer technical assistance to those communities just embarking on these types of projects.
For too long, local communities lacked a strong federal partner on water infrastructure investment, and the robust funding and policy changes in IIJA are a big step in the right direction toward renewing that partnership. We are encouraged by the Biden administration’s plan and look forward to seeing further guidance from the EPA’s Office of Water on funding for water infrastructure from the IIJA in the first quarter of 2022.
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